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Light-ContrOlled Materials For sOft RoboTics (COMFORT)

Light-ContrOlled Materials For sOft RoboTics (COMFORT) – the subject of research covers the following fields: physical sciences, chemical sciences, materials engineering, chemical engineering.

Team leader – dr hab. Beata Derkowska-Zielińska, prof. NCU

Research conducted within the Research Group COMFORT (hereinafter referred to as Group) is interdisciplinary. Using the experience of the members of the Group from the Faculty of Chemistry NCU (WCh NCU) in the synthesis of organic materials, it is planned to prepare new materials containing azobenzene reacting to light. The proposed photoactive materials will be studied by scientists from the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics NCU (WFAiIS NCU) using linear and nonlinear optical methods to optimize the properties necessary for the use of such materials in soft robotics (SR).
The newly established Group will develop SR at the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics NCU.
Close collaboration is planned between members of the Group from WFAiIS NCU and WCh NCU, as well as close collaboration with existing and new international partners from e.g. Japan, France, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and Finland.

Light-ContrOlled Materials For sOft RoboTics (COMFORT)

Recent years brought a significant increase in interest in the development of materials that mimic the abilities found in nature. During evolution, leaving creatures have become highly functional and productive, using environmental stimuli to trigger adaptive behaviors that help species to survive. The best solutions from the nature people replicate mostly using the “hard” robots, where rigid segments limit the adaptability and versatility of devices. In contrary, soft robots fully composed of susceptible polymers, better mimic living organisms with their soft body. In order to free robots from clinging to external or heavy onboard control units, it is necessary to use stimulus-responsive polymers that undergo macroscopic deformation in response to remote triggering. Such responsive materials can convert the energy contained in chemical or physical stimuli into macroscopic deformation. Among many actuators, light gained a lot of interest by being remote, non-destructive and precise activation stimulus. Therefore, many photosensitive materials have been already developed and studied in soft robotics. However, the vast range of possible applications as well as progress in nanotechnology and nanoscience allows fabricating novel materials that can outperform the ones that has been proposed before.
The aim of this research is to establish develop soft robotics (SR) at NCU (i.e. design and study the response of various photoresponsive materials and to optically control their shape change). The first goal (1) is motivated by the need for new materials for SR. The knowledge and expertise of our chemists allows to design new azobenzene-containing light-responsive polymers (ALRP). By changing the concentration of chromophores or groups that are linked to azo functionality in designed photoresponsive materials, the response to illumination can be tuned and optimized. The second goal (2) results from the fact that new materials require detailed analysis. Complementing the available experimental techniques with other tools will be used to better understand the mechanisms of photoactivation and the possibility of using their nonlinear optical (NLO) properties. The third goal (3) is to use designed and optimized materials for demonstration of SR applications.

The Group will deal with: